4 January 2014

East Africa: More Opportunities As EAC Finally Opens Up

With just a simple flash of a national identity card and other identification documents, the gates swung open at the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya on New Year's Day.

Tourists to the three countries were also given a New Year treat; they needed just one visa from any of the three countries to move freely within their territories.

These two events were fulfilling part of the East African Community (EAC) integration agenda to ease movement of people and goods.

While the other two members of the bloc were slow to catch up on the idea, well-informed observers are optimistic that it is just a matter of time before they come on board.

The coming into effect of the Single Customs Territory is already bearing fruit as goods are cleared faster and there is less paperwork which is bound to reduce the cost of doing business.

The bottlenecks that have been hindering true integration are slowly being eliminated; it is therefore up to businesses to take up the challenge.

Many have expressed fear that Kenya, with its better developed industrial base, will be the major beneficiary, but that should not discourage anyone. Kenya alone cannot satisfy the region's over 130 million-strong market, there will be enough to go around.

Competing with better performing partners should be turned into an advantage by copying best practices and remodeling them to suit the local context. There is no need to re-invent the wheel.

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